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Published: Tuesday, 12/18/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Area students met by extra officers

Several districts boost security

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Police officers and extra security measures greeted some local students who returned to school Monday — precautions area districts took after last week’s deadly Connecticut school shootings.

School officials also sent a flurry of letters to parents and other community members that outlined violence prevention efforts and expressed sympathy for families of those killed during the rampage Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“We felt that by having some additional police presence — both inside and outside our buildings — that would send a good message,” said Michael Zalar, Oregon City Schools superintendent.

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At Otsego Local Schools, concern about the far-away shooting hit close to home. Additional sheriff’s deputies joined the school resource officer Monday after school administrators learned on Friday that a student allegedly had threatened to bring a gun to Otsego High School. The student — a 17-year-old boy from Haskins — was arrested Monday afternoon by Bowling Green police on delinquency charges of inducing panic and disorderly conduct.

Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said the student, who enrolled in Otsego in October after moving from out of state, allegedly made the threat after students in the school cafeteria were talking about the deadly Connecticut shooting. He said investigators did not find any evidence the young man owned or had access to firearms.

“There’s a strong possibility he did not mean it, but maybe the lesson of the whole thing is even if they don’t mean it, they have to watch what they say,” the sheriff said.

Otsego Superintendent Adam Koch said rumors that flew throughout the district over the weekend, prompted him to schedule a meeting with parents Sunday night.

“One of the most important things is we want to make sure that the safety of our students remains a high priority, and any type of threat, any type of information we’re made aware of, we’re going to take seriously,” Mr. Koch said.

Sheriff Wasylyshyn said extra deputies would be posted at schools throughout Wood County all week.

Oregon’s Mr. Zalar said the district has three school resource officers in its buildings. On Monday, the Oregon Police Department provided help so that police officers were at each of the district’s schools as students and parents arrived. He said extra police “is not something we can do every day,” but he expects to continue this week with some level of “extra supervision.”

Brent Welker, Eastwood Local Schools superintendent, said police officers were at its schools Monday. In a message to community members, he wrote the Pemberville district will revisit the idea of adding buzzers and door cameras but stated it would create inconvenience for parents to wait outside without cover.

“However, maybe this incident has pushed us past the tipping point where we are finally willing to sacrifice convenience for security,” Mr. Welker wrote.

Perrysburg Schools administrators and principals met over the weekend to review the district’s crisis plan and address how to address students’ questions. The district does not have a school resource officer and did not bring in police officers on Monday.

“We didn’t feel that it was necessary in our situation,” said Superintendent Tom Hosler said.

The district’s elementary school buildings are locked, and main entrances are equipped with cameras and two-way speakers. An employee buzzes in visitors, he said. Mr. Hosler also wrote parents a letter in which he warned that “despite our best efforts and precautions, we cannot always keep evil at bay.”

“Our best chance of preventing this type of violence is to use our eyes, ears, and voice,” he wrote.

Paul Gibbs, principal at Rossford’s Glenwood Elementary, wrote to parents, held a Monday morning staff meeting, and scheduled a forum for parents tonight to detail safety measures and gather more ideas. The school’s doors are locked. The front entrance is monitored by a camera, and a secretary can open the door after a visitor buzzes, he said.

Today, Glenwood students also will make sympathy cards to send to Sandy Hook students.

The Connecticut shootings prompted Bedford Public Schools to increase security. Before the Connecticut shootings, the elementary schools’ doors were locked, except for a main entrance allowing visitors to walk in, said Howard Schwager, director of human resources. Beginning Friday afternoon, all doors are locked and a greeter must open the door to a visitor.

“I think right now we’re going through this week, and then we have a couple of weeks to explore other ideas and other mechanisms ... to put in place,” he said. “People felt better that we were out there and had a presence where kids could see us and parents could see us and at least know we had instituted a significant change.”

To save money, the Bedford district this month cut one of its two school liaison officers, who are part of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Mr. Schwager said there are no plans to reinstate that officer or cut the second position.

“We have a very safe district and the lack of one liaison officer does not make us more vulnerable in our opinion,” he said.

Staff writer Jennifer Feehan contributed to this report.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.


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